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Did Kyle Orton Take Advantage of the Cowboys?

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Kyle Orton’s contract was originally a 3-year-contract at $3.5 million per season. The Cowboys played with the money, agreeing to give him about $5.9 million the first year - $5 million of which was a signing bonus. They paid him only $1.35 million last year. And then he was going to get the other $3.25 million this year.

Essentially, it was a 3 year deal with 2/3rds of the money paid in the first 2 years and the remaining 3rd paid in the last year.

In addition to the Original Structure, which pushed some of the Salary of the first two years into the Salary CAP of this coming season, the Cowboys restructured Orton’s deal twice to get more room under the Salary CAP.

In November 2012 the Cowboys asked Orton to restructure his deal because they were out of Salary CAP space, and they needed to sign some new defensive players due to injury. In what was a pure paperwork accounting ploy, they extended his contract to 5 years, but the last two years were automatically voided after this coming season.

Technically, the Cowboys added two more years of salary at $3.5 million per year - for a total 5 year deal at $17.5 million. But since the last two years automatically voided after the coming season, it was really still a 3 year deal at $10.5 million.

So, Orton was still on a 3 year deal, but for Salary CAP purposes, his bonus, which had been charged to the Salary CAP at $1.667 million per year, was now spread over 5 years at $1 million per year. The Cowboys used the extra $667K to sign some defensive players for Rob Ryan's defense. (They did the same deal with Doug Free in order to spread his bonuses over 5 years instead of the 3 years remaining on his 2011 contract - with two voidable years after next season at $8 million per season.)

In the original deal, Orton agreed to be paid $3.5 million per year. He collected $7.25 million over two years, which is in line with his original deal. The purpose of how the Cowboys structured his contract was to help them on the Salary CAP because, as we all know, they were really having Salary CAP issues the last two seasons.

Last season, the Cowboys once again asked Orton to take "Bonus" money up front in lieu of salary, and spread the savings over 4 years remaining on his bogus five-year-deal.

The supposed $3.4 million Orton might have had to pay back was ALL money he allowed the Cowboys to push into later years for Salary CAP reasons. But from an original agreement perspective, Orton got paid 2/3rds of the money for 2/3rds of his original 3 year deal.

It would have been unjust for the Cowboys to attempt to collect that Bonus money back, since the only reason it has not already been charged to the CAP was to allow the Cowboys to overspend the last two years. The Cowboys did the right thing by dropping what was essentially a bogus claim to getting money paid back to them. Technically, they had a legal right to it, but morally, it wasn't right.

THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT:

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If the Cowboys had pursued getting paid back the money, when the only reason they had a legal right to it was because the player agreed to help them out on the salary CAP by the structure of the contract, it would have crippled them in all their future negotiations with other players on restructuring contracts to get Salary CAP relief.

Based on the Orton example, other players and their agents would have NO REASON to agree to restructure their salaries into bonuses spread out over several seasons. If players believed the Cowboys would pull a bait and switch by trying to get paid back for money the players already got paid, they would have to protect themselves from the Cowboys by keeping the money as salary to prohibit the Cowboys having a legal right to try to collect the money. Players would refuse to restructure.

That would severely hurt the Cowboys, and cause them not to have the ability to play around with the Salary CAP in the future. While sports reporters are mentally retarded when it comes to understanding math and accounting, you can be very sure that agents and players would notice that the Cowboys didn't treat Orton fairly.

Free Agents would refuse to sign with the Cowboys. Rookies would insist on higher salaries and lower signing bonuses. Drafted players would refuse to resign with them after their rookie contracts expired. And the Cowboys would become pariahs among NFL player agents. In short, it would have destroyed the Cowboys if they went after Orton's money - money that did not morally belong to them.

Stephen Jones and the Cowboys front office were smart enough not to do that.

The "stand-off" never became adversarial between the Cowboys and Orton. Simply put, the Cowboys never intended to go after that money because it would have hurt them more than Orton. They were just trying to get Orton to play this year because they genuinely believed the team would be better with him backing up Romo. Orton genuinely wanted to retire.

The "stand-off" was a media generated myth. And the supposed leverage the Cowboys had? Also a myth. The only reason it was reported that way is because most sports reporters are idiots when it comes to understanding contracts.

CONCLUSION

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Orton DID NOT screw over the Cowboys. He was paid 2/3rds of his contract value for 2/3rds of the work. Players get cut every year prior to the end of their contracts. And players retire every year prior to the end of their contracts.

Orton did nothing wrong by retiring a year early. And the Cowboys did nothing wrong by giving him time to change his mind. This was an amicable parting of the ways, and you shouldn't believe that either the Cowboys or Orton did anything wrong. Both parties handled themselves properly.

When Orton informed the Cowboys of his intentions to retire back in March, it allowed them to go out and sign two backup quarterbacks with NFL starting experience – Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie. The Cowboys will actually save money on the salary CAP by Orton’s retirement, since the price of Weeden and Hanie combined is less than the cost of Orton. Orton treated the Cowboys respectfully. He forfeits his claim on the final 1/3 of the money and the Cowboys don’t owe him anything more. He owes them nothing either.

Good Luck to Orton in his post-NFL life, and Go Cowboys.



Engineer, writer and private NFL analyst, he began developing his own statistical analysis program in 1998 to measure and predict the performance of NFL teams. Scott is also a self-taught expert on the NFL salary CAP, analyzing how Cowboys contracts affect the team this year and in future seasons. Mr. Harris' skill lies in digging inside the numbers to explain which statistical measurements matter, and which do not. Mr. Harris developed his skill at writing for his college newspaper, and had his own politically oriented blog for several years. A passionate fan of the Cowboys, Scott uses his skill with numbers and writing to provide a unique viewpoint of the Cowboys and the NFL as a whole. He is a native of the DFW metroplex and currently resides in Golden, Colorado designing environmental controls systems for data centers, high rise buildings, college campuses, and government bases.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. guest

    July 16, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    Nicely laid out from a cap analysis POV, which is more helpful than most other pieces being written which could explain WHY Orton would want to force this issue. If it’s a not a retirement and he still wants to play, it begs the question of why he wanted out of the final year, e.g. chance to sign as a starter elsewhere? Back to Chicago to back up Cutler until he inevitably gets hurt? Or, maybe he saw the addition of Linehan as the offensive play caller as the final cook that broke the kitchen? i.e. Orton no longer had a voice even in the QB team, since now completely downed out with the voices of Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, Bill Callahan, Wade Wilson, and Tony Romo in the mix.  I don’t think Orton had a problem holding the clipboard for a final year at $3.5m, but he seemed to be effective in almost a QB coaching role as the backup. Now there’s no room for him to contribute in this mix and the team actually IS better off with low-cost rookie who can just watch and learn instead.

  2. Dan Davis

    July 19, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Cowboy fan here.

    This is a great article which the rest of the sports writing media entirely missed.

    Bravo.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Offseason: Projecting Dak Prescott’s Extension

John Williams

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QB Dak Prescott Switches Agents Prior to Crucial 2018 Season 1

This week, Spotrac.com, who analyzes the salary cap, player performance, and makes projections for future contracts, released their most recent contract valuations for the big name Dallas Cowboys who will be approaching the offseason looking for a new contract. Between, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys will have a lot of negotiating going on this offseason and will be handing out some big bucks.

Obviously, the one that we're most concerned about here in Cowboys Nation is what the Dallas Cowboys front office is going to do with Dak Prescott. Many fans and pundits aren't sold on Dak Prescott as a franchise quarterback, but he is a franchise quarterback and he's about to get paid like one.

Brace yourselves. 

Spotrac on Twitter

Updated Baseline Market Valuations for notable #Cowboys heading into 2019 Dak Prescott: $25.2M https://t.co/ShnCWjIJOM DeMarcus Lawrence: $19.6M https://t.co/3pekUoiVjQ Amari Cooper: $16.7M https://t.co/vPymDSdEeU Zeke Elliott: $9.4M https://t.co/mtFxTap892

Over The Cap is projecting the 2019 salary cap to be around $190 million this season, which would put Dak Prescott's projected salary figure of $25.2 million at around 13.2% of this season's salary cap. And percentage of the cap is the more important number to look at when judging Dak Prescott's figure. When Russell Wilson signed his four-year extension in 2015 that averaged out at $21.9 million per year, his contract took up 15.3% of the salary cap when signed. So yes, in total dollars, Prescott's salary will be higher, but in percent of the cap it will be lower. If you give Dak Prescott 15.3% of the projected 2019 salary cap, you’re looking at $29.07 million per year.

When Spotrac does their salary projections they attempt to find quarterbacks who have had similar careers to the player and use those players as a gauge for what the projection might be, including adjustments for the market rate for the position and the growing salary cap. So, Spotrac has Dak Prescott's career thus far comparable to Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton. Below, you can see the contract numbers for those players that Dak Prescott compares to and the age when they signed their deals.

That's an interesting mix of players.

What will a Dak Prescott Contract Extension Look Like

Let's also take a look at the top six quarterback contracts in the NFL.

Dallas Cowboys Offseason: Projection Dak Prescott's ExtensionLet's start first with Derek Carr, who has the sixth highest average annual pay rate at just over $25 million per year. He signed his deal two years ago in the 2017 offseason. Another contract I like to look at when attempting to figure Prescott's number is Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo got his deal from the San Francisco 49ers after only seven NFL starts (two with New England Patriots and five with the 49ers). His contract made him the fourth highest paid quarterback at $27.5 million per year. Again, after only seven NFL Starts.

Dak Prescott has 48 starts in the NFL regular season, and a career passer rating of 96. Of the top six quarterback contracts listed above, only Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Garoppolo have a higher career passer rating than Dak Prescott. If you look at the top 10 quarterback contracts in the NFL now, only Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Jimmy Garoppolo have a higher career passer rating than Dak Prescott. You can argue that Prescott's teams have had more success than Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, and Derek Carr in his first three seasons. While QB Wins is not a stat that we should use to evaluate quarterback play, because you’re paying not only the production of Dak Prescott, but also the intangibles if Dak Prescott, you have to look at the wins.

The Dallas Cowboys have gone 32-16 in the regular season with Dak Prescott at quarterback and 1-2 with him in the playoffs. That, in only three years in the NFL. He's going to get better as a player. Even if you don't look at QB Wins, Dak Prescott has been as productive as those guys he's mentioned with, aside from Brees and Rodgers.

John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Dak Prescott's body of work as a 3-year starter is franchise QB level stuff. As @Marcus_Mosher pointed out on the @lockedoncowboys Podcast, Dak's last 15 games 4,100 total yards, 30 total TDs, 7 INTs. Y'all don't want to pay that? #CowboysNation

These comparisons below look at the two years before the quarterback signing their franchise quarterback contract. Here you see that Dak compares favorably to Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Kirk Cousins.

What will a Dak Prescott Contract Extension Look Like 1

 

As you can see above, over the last two years, Dak Prescott's averaged more passing yards per game, nearly as many touchdowns per game, fewer interceptions per game, and a comparable passer rating to Newton and Wilson in the two years before they signed their big contract extensions. His completion percentage That doesn't consider his play during the 2016 season in which he won rookie of the year as the starting quarterback for a team that went 13-3.

RJ Ochoa on Twitter

Derek Carr became the highest-paid player in NFL History after his third season. He signed a five-year, $125M extension. Here's his first three seasons next to Dak Prescott's.

RJ Ochoa, formerly of Inside The Star and now of Blogging the Boys, provided a nice comparison between Derek Carr and Dak Prescott in their first seasons in the NFL. When Derek Carr signed his contract, he became the highest paid player in NFL history.

The projection provided by Spotrac of $25.2 million is the floor as it would be just above Derek Carr's contract that he signed 2 years ago. It's entirely possible that Prescott signs a contract for more than Matt Ryan and could potentially become the highest paid quarterback in the NFL,  but I'm going to estimate that Dak Prescott receives a five-year deal for $145 million, which would give him $29 million per year.

Jerry Jones has been adamant over the course of the season about his desire to get a long-term contract done with Dak in the offseason. Jerry Jones is the owner and the general manager, so it's only a matter of time before Dak's representatives and the Cowboys front office hammers out the final numbers. Dak Prescott is going to get a big deal and bigger than many in Cowboys Nation want to give him. But the going rate for franchise quarterbacks in the NFL is that number that Jimmy Garoppolo signed.

More Salary Cap and Contract discussion here at Inside The Star

2019 Offseason Cap Casualties

2019 Dead Money Relief

Cowboys 2019 Cap Space: Who Stands to Gain the Most?

 



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Dallas Cowboys Fire Special Teams Assistant Doug Colman

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Fire Special Teams Assistant Doug Colman

The theme of last year's offseason in Dallas was coaching changes below HC Jason Garrett, OC Scott Linehan, and DC Rod Marinelli, and not yet through a week of this offseason it appears to be the same now. The Cowboys today have moved on from Special Teams Assistant Doug Colman.

Like current ST Coordinator Keith O'Quinn, Colman was in his first season with the Cowboys. The former sixth-round draft pick out of Nebraska held the same position with the Houston Texans for four previous seasons.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Small change on the #Cowboys coaching staff, as assistant special teams coach Doug Colman is out, source said. The only known change at this point.

With O'Quinn filling perhaps the biggest shoes left behind from last year, when Rich Bisaccia left the Cowboys after five seasons, the team has tentatively agreed they're struggles on special teams do not fall on the coordinator and will now be looking for a new assistant.

The Cowboys did successfully transition from Kicker Dan Bailey to Brett Maher, watching Bailey struggle with the Vikings as Maher finished 29 of 36 and six of seven on field goals of 50 or more yards. The always-steady Chris Jones averaged 44.5 yards a punt in 2018, up slightly from 44.1.

The return game is where Dallas struggled to find consistency. Deonte Thompson led the team in kick returns despite being released after eight games. Darius Jackson, Jourdan Lewis, and Cole Beasley all failed to make an impact from this spot once called upon - with Beasley and Tavon Austin also handling punt returns for an average of 5.7 yards a return.

With further upgrades at wide receiver being a pressing need for the Cowboys still, adding a dynamic returner should be of priority for both the current coaches and any new additions to the ST staff.

The Cowboys were also second to last in average kickoff return yards allowed this season, and 16th in punt coverage.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Fire Special Teams Assistant Doug Colman" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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5 Potential Candidates Cowboys Could Target to Replace OC Scott Linehan

Brian Martin

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5 Potential Candidates to Replace Cowboys OC Scott Linehan

Should he go or should he stay!? That seems to be the question the Dallas Cowboys are asking themselves about their current Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. Many of us would say it's an easy decision to make, but we really don't know what's going on behind closed doors.

The only thing we know for sure right now is Scott Linehan is still employed by the Dallas Cowboys and it might be a while before we know his fate with the organization one way or another. The Cowboys coaching staff, including Linehan, will coach the Pro Bowl in a little over a week, which is why any decision regarding Dallas' coaching staff will likely be delayed.

I know my opinion means little, but I have a hard time seeing Scott Linehan returning to the Dallas Cowboys next season. His playcalling has been pretty predictable and dated the past few years, plus there's the fact he was nearly fired earlier this season during the bye week. I don't think he's done much since then to improve his chances of sticking around. But, that's just my opinion.

That's why today I thought I'd share with you a few of the potential OC candidates I'd personally target if I were the Dallas Cowboys. Let's get started…

Tony Romo

Tony RomoHow elated would Cowboys Nation be if Tony Romo returned to the Dallas Cowboys as their next offensive coordinator. Everybody understands he doesn't have any formal coaching experience, especially in the NFL, but I seriously doubt that would matter.

No one would question his knowledge of the game, especially after hearing him break down the X's and O's first hand while he's commentating on game days. It's one of the reasons why he's grown in popularity as a commentator in such a short time.

Honestly, bringing in Romo as the OC could be the match made in heaven for the Cowboys. He already knows the system Jason Garrett likes to use offensively and his coaching philosophy. It would likely be a seamless transition, especially since he's already so familiar with the personnel. But, there's really no way of knowing if he's ready to leave his cushy commentating job to become a coach.

Todd Haley

Todd Haley

(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

As much as I'd like to see Tony Romo make his return back to the Dallas Cowboys in a coaching capacity, bringing back Todd Haley to the organization would be a close second. He spent 2004-2006 with the Cowboys as their wide receiver coach before moving on to become the offensive coordinator for several teams (Cardinals, Steelers, Browns) and the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Unlike Romo, Haley has a proven track record as a play caller in the NFL. I personally like what he would bring to the table if made the new OC in Dallas. He is an aggressive play caller with a fiery attitude. I think his addition to the Cowboys offense could have the same kind of impact as Kris Richard's did to the defense this past season.

There is a downside about Haley though. He can be a bit abrasive with those he's working with. He's known for not always getting along with some of his players or with his coaching staff. It's one of the reasons why both he and Hue Jackson were fired this past season by the Cleveland Browns. I don't think it would be a problem with Dallas, but it is something to think about.

Eric Bieniemy

Eric BieniemyI'm grasping a little bit here because it would take quite a bit to lure Eric Bieniemy away from the Kansas City Chiefs, but it's not completely impossible. Jerry Jones would have to really put on his business hat to get Bieniemy's attention, especially after he was in the running for a few head-coaching jobs here recently. But, we all know how persuasive Jerry Jones can be when he wants to.

First off, the Dallas Cowboys would have to make Bieniemy their assistant head coach as well as their offensive coordinator. He is already the OC with the Chiefs, just not the playcaller. Andy Reid still handles those responsibilities. He does however handle the majority of the game planning, which is raved about because of his attention to detail.

His players have also raved about his personality and aggressiveness as a coach. This is something that has endeared Cowboys players to Kris Richard in a short amount of time and it could be the same if Eric Bieniemy comes aboard. Unfortunately, I think this is a longshot. He's probably is eyeing a head-coaching job that could come as soon as next season. Jason Garrett replacement?

Joe Lombardi

Joe LombardiJoe Lombardi, the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, isn't on a lot of people's list as a potential offensive coordinator candidate, but probably should be. He does have one year of experience as an OC in the NFL, but that was with the Detroit Lions in 2014-2015 and we shouldn't count that against him. No play callers last long in Detroit since Matthew Stafford took over as their starting QB.

The reason I really like Lombardi as a potential Scott Linehan replacement is because of the time he spent with Sean Payton and Drew Brees in New Orleans. Minus the one year in Detroit, he's been with the Saints since 2007. The majority of that time was spent as the QB coach to one of the best ever played the game.

I've been trying to figure out a way to get Sean Payton back as a Cowboys coach for the past several seasons without any success. Turning to someone he's personally groomed could be the next best thing. He was there through all of Drew Brees' numerous passing records and his Super Bowl victory. He has also help develop Taysom Hill into the playmaker he's become this season. He could just be the guy to take Dak Prescott's game to the next level.

Doug Nussmeier (In-house Candidate)

Doug Nussmeier

Dallas Cowboys TE Coach Doug Nussmeier

If the Dallas Cowboys do indeed decide to move on from Scott Linehan, it doesn't necessarily mean they will look outside the organization for a new offensive coordinator. They could quite possibly already have his replacement on the team in Doug Nussmeier, who served as their tight end coach this season.

Nussmeier's coaching background mostly consist of him being a QB coach or offensive coordinator at the collegiate level. In fact, those are the only two coaching titles he's held throughout his career until this year when he became the Cowboys TE coach. I don't know about you, but I find that pretty impressive, especially after seeing Dallas' young tight ends progress through the season.

Promoting Nussmeier to OC would virtually be a seamless transition for everybody involved. He knows the system, the players, and has been involved in the game planning this past season. I don't know however if he would be an upgrade over Scott Linehan. The two have known one another for years and have worked together in the past. Not exactly a ringing endorsement in my opinion.

Do any of these Dallas Cowboys OC candidates intrigue you? If not who?



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